The Royal Airforce
RAF Salalah, was a staging post in the Sultanate of Muscat in the south western Dhofar province within 75 miles of the border with Yemen and 550 miles distant from the capital Muscat. The airfield had been constructed in 1928 and had been in constant use ever since as a military and civilian staging post. It was a refuelling staging post for the regular Valetta flights from Khormaksar to Mauripur just after WW2. In the 1960s, Salalah provided refuelling and replenishment facilities for Valetta, Beverley, Argosy, Dakota and other aircraft operating on the Aden-Masirah-Sharjah-Bahrain route. The runway was limited to a grit surface until tarmac was laid in early 1972.
RAF Salalah was the so called “Salalah Hook”. The British were on the “hook” and were obliged to maintain and operate RAF Salalah in return for the use of RAF Masirah, an essential link in the route to the Far East. The sultanate and the British both benefited. The newly forming SOAF (Sultan of Oman’s Airforce) had a base where it could fly both its fixed winged and rotating wing aircraft in pursuit of the rapidly escalating war against the dissidents crossing the border from Yemen. The British had their transit base on Masirah Island.
55 FST was located within the confines of RAF Salalah simply because basing it near BATT, who it was intended to support, at Umm Al Guariff would have had none of the advantages of a well administered RAF airfield.
The RAF Regiment
The RAF Regiment, the “Rockapes” , were deployed to RAF Salalah to defend it from land attack. The perimeter of the base was pushed out by the establishment of the defensive “hedgehogs” which were manned by The Regiment armed with GPMGs and 81 mm mortars.
The intention was that insurgent RCLs would be kept out of range of RAF Salalah. “Cracker Battery” of 25pdrs provided further discouragement to them to venture towards the base. The adoo adopted a policy of a close approach, loosing off a few rounds and then scooting off before they could be targeted. They had huge good luck when one of their rounds hit the officers’ mess in Salalah whilst a party was in progress. Several Strikemaster pilots were incapacitated but the insurgents were long gone before any response could be made.